The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Ghana Days, by Suzanne

View from my house to Ashesi campus, on the second hill just
to the right of the middle of the picture - photo taken 5pm-ish

Sane view,photo taken around 6:45am
People (well, o.k., my Mom and my husband) have been asking about my days here this visit.  I’m here about 6 weeks, staying at the faculty house about a 10 minute drive from Ashesi, outside the village of Berekuso 60+ minutes north of Accra (it’s actually not very far at all, but the road is bad so you can’t go very fast).  So here’s one of my typical days: wake at 6am with the sun (and sometimes my phone alarm), make my tea (in an electric kettle if there’s power, more often the old fashioned way on the stove), take my shower (if no power, then it’s kind of like standing under a trickle, but it’s surprisingly effective), get dressed, get picked by Nina the Ashesi Chief Librarian around 7am, into work by about 7:10.  Most mornings Ashesi’s campus, which is on the top of a hill, is within a cloud, so it’s pretty cool (literally and figuratively) to drive into the cloud each morning.  My class is at 8:30 so I have just enough time to finalize what I will do that day without stressing too much, drop readings off at the library for scanning, etc. I either eat at home with my tea or if I’m running late bring a cliff bar and eat at my desk while prepping. Class runs 8:30 to 11:40 (1/2 lecture, then a break, then lab), then I head back to my office for a few minutes, sort myself out, post the powerpoint I just used and links, etc., then maybe check email briefly before I head to lunch.  Trying to keep up with my first-world email here is tough, the quantity is tremendous – another thing I hadn’t noticed so much in the always-connected fast internet world of the States.  Since I really only have about 5 hours a day of internet and I spend 1 hour of it eating lunch, and at least 3 hours prepping for the next day, getting through email often doesn’t happen in any given day.  So, very sorry if I haven’t responded to an email you sent – I haven’t been on Facebook either L.   Hopefully I’ll catch up.

Lunch is a wonderful spot in my day.  Ashesi is such a close-knit community that mostly people don’t “go to lunch” with each other – you just wander over to the canteen when you’re hungry and free, order and pick up your food, and then sit with whoever is there and visit with them.  Or if no one else is there or if their table is already full, you just start a new table and someone will be along to join you soon enough.  I really like it because I get to chat with just about everybody without having to make “appointments”.  The food at the canteen is great, also – good Ghanaian cooking, usually three choices and two sizes each.  The Ghanaian diet it heavy on the starch (rice or yam or fufu or banku or kenke or plantain), the full portion is too much for me of the starch especially, so I have started doing what many of the American or Europeans do at the Ashesi canteen – order the smaller portion and then pay for an extra order of meat – meat is more of a condiment here, so even with the extra portion of meat you get, for example, about one small chicken drumstick.  But it works well for me, so I am somewhat hungry but not very for dinner. 
My office is the leftmost you can see on the top -
maybe you can tell my door is open

Ashesi courtyard view from my office, looking towards other
offices to the right and classrooms & labs straight across
The afternoon is mostly spent doing whatever absolutely needs to be done for the next day, then if I am catching a ride with Nina again I need to leave at 4:45, which means that at about 4:30 I start logging out of the courseware (Moodle) system, closing my files, shutting down my laptop, packing my backpack, running to the Ashesi convenience store to buy the water I need for the night, etc., to be in the parking lot around 4:45.   I can usually see Nina walk by so I know when I need to dash out.  This week I have stayed late a few nights and caught a ride with someone else, to have another 30-60 min or so of light and internet.  But if I ride with Nina then I get home in time to accompany Nana on her nightly walk.  Nana stays at the faculty house most days during the week, but returns to her house outside of Accra for the weekends.  At home, Nana and I (and maybe others if they’re around) mostly cut up some fruit (mango, pineapple, banana) for dinner and supplement with a little something else – she made a pudding dessert one night, we got some leftovers from a friend from work one night, we have had cheese and crackers a few nights, or even just avocado and crackers.  We have a nice leisurely dinner, we chat for awhile, then we do the dishes and wander off to work some, then go to bed.  That’s about it! 

Most weekends I’ll travel at least some – the first weekend to the beach one night then with the Jackson’s in Accra one night.  The next weekend I’ll go into Accra Saturday night – it’s Ken’s graduation from Lincoln (where my kids went to school and where Fox graduated from).  And of course, church on Sunday!  It was FANTASTIC being back at Asbury-Dunwell last week, I can’t wait to go again!
Suzanne at Anomabo, one of our favorite beaches

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Light is Off… A Lot, by Suzanne

I think it’s official, the light has been off more than it’s been on this trip (ps – since I wrote this yesterday, the light has been largely ON!  So I re-estimate that it’s been 50-50%).  At Ashesi they have generators (and the associated fumes and noise), only once that I’ve been there has the power been out more than a few seconds – the one time was when the generator overheated.  People say the frequency and long durations of light outs is unusual – up until the big rainstorm on Saturday light outs had been much less frequent, so the assumption is that this is a “blip”.  Power out is really not so bad, although it has definitely cut into my productiveness.  What laptop power I have in the evenings I have had to use for work, so even though I have several seasons of Will & Grace (thanks Mary!) and some movies too, I can’t watch them.  Also, I don’t have internet at home, but typically I could at least type out blog posts and emails at home and then copy and paste them during work the next day – not so much of that happening either, although this blog post is being written at my house – in light, but without the laptop battery charging – there is an odd thing in Ghana that sometimes only some of the house has power – they say something like ‘one phase’ is out.  I still don’t quite get it, but in a bit I will go search the house for an outlet that works so I can plug in to recharge.  I plan to watch a movie tonight – tomorrow is a holiday (African Unity Day), so this is my Friday, even though it’s Thursday (and this will get posted some time later). No one else is at the faculty house with me tonight, so a movie sounds good.  I did work hard this week and am ready for a whole evening of not working!  Maybe in the light, maybe in the dark, doesn’t much matter, but hopefully with enough power on my laptop battery.  Or if not, then I’ll start reading The Hunger Games – I hear it’s good! 
My bedroom (in the daylight, of course) - very spacious!

View towards the dressing area and bathroom

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ghana Makes Me Smile, by Suzanne

I am too serious in the U.S.  I knew it before, but coming here makes me realize that I don’t laugh near enough.  Already, 9 days in, I have had several belly laughs, and lots and lots of smiling.  Including this morning – but first a little background.

When we were in Ghana 2006-2008, we had two Fulbright “daughters”, Sarah the first year and Ana S. the second year.  She was “Ana S” because our daughter Anna was just “Anna”, although at that point she began to be called "Anna B", which I still call her some to this day.  The two Annas were close.  At one point, Ana S had really mastered the Ghanaian way of saying “why” which I can’t really do justice to phonetically, but for those of you not familiar with Ghana, trust me when I say it’s different than how it is said in the US.  Anyway, Ana S was teaching Anna B how to say it, they had multiple “why” tutorial sessions.  At one point they decided to play a prank on me and recorded one of their sessions on my phone and set it as my alarm, so the next morning I woke up to:
Ana S: why   Anna B: why (attempting to repeat the sound she just heard Ana S make)
Ana S: why   Anna B: why
Ana S: why   Anna B: why
Ana S: why   Anna B: why  (then the two of them giggling)

I actually thought the recording was was quite fun and have kept it as my alarm (not ringtone) ever since.  The first few years when I returned to Ghana I would be surprised by it the first time I woke up (and smile), now I come to look forward to that first morning in Ghana being awakened by my two Annas practicing their “why”s.
So, this morning, I woke up to why why why why why why why.  That alone does make me smile.  But just then, a bird flew by my window and I could have sworn it said “WHY” (in a very Ghanaian fashion, by the way).  Ghana makes me smile!
View from the window where the bird asked, "why?"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back in Ghana - Summer 2012, by Suzanne

In retrospect, it was probably a little ambitious to arrive in Ghana after a 23 hour flight and be ready to teach a 3-hour a day everyday course that still needed some prep work within 36 hours of arriving.  Even though I have lived and worked here before.  Even though I have taught this class before (although not exactly this configuration of class).  A bit ambitious, in retrospect.

So, I was off and running.  No time for jetlag, no time for errands, no time (well, not much time) for visiting with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in a year.  No time for pleasure reading, blogging, or stopping to smell the roses.  I haven’t even had any mangos yet!!! I did decide to forgo some sleep tonight to get the first blog post written (I’ll post tomorrow), since I do know that my friends and family back home want to know how things are going.

Probably also a bit ambitious to say, “YES!!!” to an offer to tag along on a beach trip this weekend – which means we need to leave campus Friday (tomorrow) by 2pm, which means, since I teach all morning, that any prepping I need to do for Monday must be done either before or at home (with no internet) on Sunday.  But, it’s the BEACH.  A west coast of Africa beach!  With transportation and hotel already arranged (thanks, Mary Kay!).  There was NO WAY I was going to say no to that!  I’m trying to find lodging for my me and my student for Saturday night in Accra but so far am having trouble finding availability at our price and comfort point.  I’ll have a few more hours to try tomorrow, otherwise we’ll need to head back to Berekuso Saturday evening which is not ideal since there isn’t meal service on campus on Sundays.  But we can shop in Accra and bring in some prepared foods, so it can work.

So anyway, today was the first class day and it went very well.  15 Ashesi students plus the student I brought from Southwestern.  Some technology hiccups to start, but I was up and lecturing at twenty past the hour (the class was to start on the hour).  Class included the fun (and sometimes inappropriate by American standards) class interactions that I love about Ashesi.  Got the Moodle courseware populated that afternoon so maybe the students will have done their readings for tomorrow - somehow.  One more lecture-only day then we start ½ lecture, ½ lab 3 hour blocks next week.  Most of the labs are largely prepped, so hopefully it will all go pretty smoothly.

Two stumbling blocks to being as efficient as I might be: no internet (and sometimes no power) at the faculty house where I’m staying, and, it’s not walking distance to the campus which means I hitch a ride with someone driving past, which means I can’t work late.  Aeh!  I bring my laptop back and forth each day and can work at home, but not having access to the internet or the Moodle courseware is a hindrance.  But, I’m a good adapter, I can make it work.  The house is huge and lovely (although with oddities like the tub for which there is not near enough water, and the details that don’t work well – but, can be typical of Ghana).
Anyway, that’s it so far.  Safe travels, uneventful flights, a blessed homestay with our friends the Jacksons the first night (plus they picked us from the airport and took us up to Ashesi the next day!!!).  No illnesses, no worries except for getting everything ready for class each day and wishing I had more time for visiting.  But so far, so good in Ghana, West Africa!
Nana and Suzanne in front of the Faculty House

Side view of Faculty House, I have this whole side (upstairs)!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Mission to Haiti, part 2

Mission to Haiti, part 2

Here is a video of our Vacation Bible Camp in Haiti:  

Over the years I have observed that successful mission trips can be evaluated by the degree that each person on the team
Connects with God (covered in part 1)
Connects with the people they came with
Connect with the people they came to serve

Connecting to the people we came with
We were a team of nine people from different churches, two medium sized, and one so large that much of the host team only met at the team orientation. Some were experienced missioners, for others this was their first time out, and I wondered how this team would “gel.” 

Not all Mission Teams jell, but those that do, have a  predictable pattern to how quickly they    become as one (or jell). Ideally it happens between day two or three, but teams can also jell too fast. It is a false bond that is not strong enough to last the entirety of the trip. Some teams never jell, or jell so late that people just get a taste of that team feeling and then it’s over. 

Our team gelled (or jelled) fast and well, in ways I’ve never seen a team come together before. There was no drama or strife, and we worked alongside each other and the Haitians we had come to serve as equals. There is a Haitian Proverb that says “For a table to stand well, all legs must be of equal length”. We learned the proverb’s meaning by example:  for a group to work together well, all must work as equals - different abilities, but a same spirit of dedication.
You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless 

Connecting with the people we came to Serve

Volunteers in Mission (VIM) is attempting a new organizational model for its Haiti effort. In this effort, the work is being guided by the Haitian Methodist Church, using missioners working alongside local people, using local     materials, appropriate technology and construction techniques to the culture (read: we did it by hand). 

For the time a missioner is in the country, four Haitian locals are to be employed in their support. For our team of nine, we had three cooks (who also hauled water for the toilets and bucket showers), two interpreters, a driver (when one was needed), and ten workers whom we worked alongside on the worksite. 

The food was amazing - mostly local dishes and locally grown foods, though one day we had Wonderbread and Spam sandwiches for lunch - which was delicious (really!) Vacation Bible Camp (think VBS) was held for the children of the village in the mornings. The first day there were about 80 kids with an equal mix of boys and girls, but by day three it was closer to a more manageable 40, and mostly boys. We learned that the girls could not come because they were needed to haul water for their families. We slept open air in cots inside the temporary school house, going to sleep and waking to the same sounds as the village, mostly barking dogs and chickens, and the ever present sound of the hand pump being used.

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
(God of the City, by Bluetree)

Why Mission is not just about the Money
I am often asked why we believers go on mission trips, when sending the money the trips cost would be so much more efficient. It’s a fair question, given the cost of transportation and the lack of most North Americans (myself included) to work the distance and abilities of the local work force. And yet I believe in short term mission teams because of the work they do accomplish, on site, and the continuing influence of the work as people resume their lives. Thus far in 2011, 97 UMVIM teams, representing over 800 volunteers, have served in Haiti. 

John Wesley believed that through prayer, God changes us so that we can change the world. I make no illusions about the work we did in Haiti; at best we added about six feet to the height of the walls that will become the foundation of the church building. Even though most of these walls will be buried when it’s back filled, I believe that we made a difference, not only in the continuing work on the church building (which will be complete in six months), but also made a difference in the lives of the children (ask me about a young man named Cladell), and put Wesley’s understanding of prayer into action, changing each of us so that we can go out to change the world.